Monday, October 24, 2005

On Make-Up

While standing in the shower this morning, I was involved in my usual creative thinking. It is where I get my best ideas, with all kinds of thoughts swirling around in my head. I can't truly remember how the subject came up, but I started thinking about make-up, as in that which women put on their faces.

As a girl in my late teens, I darkened my eyebrows, although I never removed them as so many other girls and women did in the 50’s. There are photos floating around of my blonde self with very dark, thick eyebrows.

I went to New York City to work in 1958, and a few months after I arrived there, I started sharing an apartment with Skira, a model from Lithuania. She was not a model in the sense of today’s oh-so-thin young girls, with malnourished looks, and dark shadows under the eyes. Skira was a big girl, tall and robust. I can still picture her hands and wrists. They were anything but delicate. She plucked her eyebrows totally, then painted on new ones way above the brow line. Of course, she wore lots of pancake, as was done in the 40’s and 50’s. Skira was not even very pretty, as I remember her. I am not totally sure what the attraction was, and I can not remember the jobs she had.

She worked for an agency, and talked me into moonlighting there after my own work, as a telemarketer. We were to use the phone book and call homes looking for girls to sign up for charm school. We were given a script, and admonished regarding the geographical areas in which we were to concentrate our calls. Certain areas of New York City were not called, as we did not recruit girls with darker skin. “We do not have the make-up for those girls, yet.”

I lasted for one week in that night-time job, as I contracted laryngitis and my day job would be affected. I decided right then and there that I hated telemarketing. It is a thankless job.

I wore make-up while I was working in New York City, but after I married and became pregnant, we left the city and I became a stay-at-home Mom. There was no longer any point in gussying up, and I stopped bleaching my hair. I was much too busy raising four little kids to worry about my appearance for quite a few years.

We had moved back home, to the Finger Lakes Area, and then to the Buffalo area, in the suburbs. While in the Alden area, I became best friends with my backyard neighbor, Betty Campbell. We started doing everything together, besides standing over our vegetable gardens talking while the kids played. I didn’t drive at the time, so she took me with her to places where we wanted to do things. We even took art classes together, and joined an art club. I had always wanted to do something like that, and other than a few classes which I had taken in New York at the Metropolitan, I just had not taken the time to work on this.

Eventually, we moved to the City of Buffalo, so Chris could attend Calasanctius, the school for gifted children. The other kids soon joined him there, except for Craig. By the time Craig was old enough, I had become disenchanted with the school, and enrolled the kids in the city schools, as a major program of magnet schools was being developed, with my involvement.

I changed, as a direct result of meeting new people, working at Calasanctius in the Finance Office, and helping run the Gourmet Dinners and Wine Tastings. I was also working with other parents and faculty from the school, on enrichment programs and seminars for the profession, in the U.S. and Canada. When I became involved with all of this, I started dressing up, and, yes, wearing make-up.

I still remember a time when my friend Betty, from Alden, came to see me in the city. She was shocked that I was wearing eye make-up. That was a big deal to her. I do believe her opinion of me changed at that point. I did not wear foundation, but the eye make-up became an important part of my dressing for work, meetings and social occasions. I did not leave the house without “my eyes on”. I did not use eye liner, just eye shadow and mascara. It was all that I wanted to do, and it was easy. I had been using blue eye shadow, plus other colors, but eventually changed to green, as I felt it brought out the color in my eyes.

I used eye make-up until a few years ago. I have had to give up the practice, as I now have a problem with my corneas, and the last thing I need is to pollute my eyes with a foreign substance. I was never good at removing the make-up at night, without getting a lot of garbage in my eyes, and when my eyes started hurting a whole lot, even before I went to the surgeon to get them checked, I stopped applying the make-up. Sometimes, I wish I could use it, as old ladies twenty years older than I am still put on all of their make-up, and I feel as though I have no lashes without the mascara. At least, with my glasses on, I think it is not as noticeable.

I think about make-up sometimes when I am cleaning old jewelry for resale, and have to work hard to remove fifty-year-old make-up from necklaces and earrings. The earrings are especially hard to deal with, as the makeup is all glopped into the intricate parts of the clips and screw backs. Back in those days, girls and women really plastered on the pancake, even on their necks and ears. I remember them doing it, and the jewelry certainly does. I have talked to the young girls who stop by my booth to check out the jewelry, and I tell them about the make-up in the 40’s and 50’s. They seem to enjoy hearing my little “lectures” and learning about things that happened long before they were born. Even though girls wear a lot of make-up today, they don’t come close to what was done back then.

I was involved in theatrical make-up off and on when the kids were young and performing in their musicals. It was great fun to work with a professional make-up husband and wife team, and learn the ropes, so to speak. They taught the rest of us to work with the performers, who were all ages from young kids to adults, and the results were tremendous. It was great fun to work with them every evening doing faces and hair, and achieving results that were spectacular from the audience. Also, the make-up thing had come full circle, as I was applying make-up to boys and girls with dark skin and making them incredibly beautiful when viewed from the audience. The musical George M, about George M. Cohan, contained a lot of tap dancing, and with a whole stage full of dancers in their fine costumes and make-up, performing, it was a sight to behold. This, coupled with my involvement in making costumes and providing props, was a very rewarding part of my life as a parent. Some of the productions ran for a couple of weeks, to sold-out houses. I do believe the kids still think about this at times, my kids who are now all in their 40’s.


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